Balvenie Castle

Balvenie Castle (Castle of Mortlach), Moray


Castle Road, Dufftown




AB55 4DH

Balvenie Castle is a fine ruin  that lies behind Glenfiddich whisky distillery, just outside the village of Dufftown.

It was originally a walled courtyard castle with a rock cut ditch surrounding it built in the 13th century.

Inside the castle there are many interesting features that make this ruin well worth exploring.

~ History ~

1304 ~ King Edward I of England visits the powerful Comyn's in their castle of of Mortlach.

1308 ~ Robert the Bruce's forces destroy much of the castle in their campaign against their bitter rivals the Comyn's. The castle remains derelect for many years.

1400's ~ The castle is rebuilt and remodelled for James Douglas, Lord Balvenie, a second son of Archibald Douglas, third Earl of Douglas.

1420's ~ James Douglas acts as the link between his brother and the powerful Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany, who is acting as Regent for his cousin King James I of Scotland, during the King's imprisonment in England.

1424 ~ King James ransom is finally met and he returns to Scotland. James Douglas, along with his nephew Archibald Douglas, sits on the jury which convicts Murdoch and two of his sons of treason, for the delay in paying the ransom for eighteen years.

1426 ~ James Douglas is rewarded with lands and his eldest son knighted a few years later.

1437 ~ King James is assassinated. Douglas backs his nephew who later becomes Regent for the young King James II. History later repeats itself when King James turns on his Regent, in what would later become known as the 'Black Dinner' at Edinburgh Castle. James Douglas great-nephew William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas and his younger brother David are summarily beheaded on trumped up charges in the presence of the young King James II.

1443 ~ James Douglas, a prudent peaceable man, nicknamed "The Gross" because of his immense size, dies at Abercorn Castle.

1460 ~ The downfall of the Black Douglas's see's their lands forfeit to the Crown. Balvenie Castle is granted to John Stewart, Earl of Atholl.

1547 ~ The castle is substantially remodelled including the building the new palace blockg.

1562 ~ A favourite of Mary, Queen of Scots, Atholl entertains the Queen at Balvenie Castle.

1579 ~ Atholl dies suddenly leaving his estates to be split between four daughters.

1615 ~ Balvenie Castle is acquired by Robert Innes of Innernarkie.

1623 ~ Robert Innes is prosecuted for carrying firearms and his son Walter is later charged with bragging and brawling.

1628 ~ The Innes are made baronets of Nova Scotia.

1634 ~ Robert and his son Walter receive a commission to apprehend rebels.

1644 ~ The Marquis of Montrose uses the castle during his campaign against the Covenanters.

1649 ~ The castle is occupied by troops. The Inneses family financial affairs become a concern. Neighbouring families attack their lands as their debts grow.

It is near the castle that a Covenanter force, led by Alexander Leslie, defeats a Royalist army taking 900 prisoners. Walter is one of the Royalist dead.

1658 ~ By the end of the Covenant Wars the Inneses debts are such that they are finally forced to sell the castle. Colonel Sutherland of Kinminity purchases the Castle.

1687 ~ The castle is claimed by Arthur Forbes but again debts leads to the castle being taken by his creditor Alexander Duff.

1689 ~ A Williamite garrison flee the castle following their defeat at the Battle of Killicrankie against the Jacobite's, who now hold the castle.

1695 ~  The castle is in the hands of the Earl of Fife, who complains it has again been used as a barracks again.

1715 ~ William Duff strengthens the castle holding it against the Jacobites.

1718 ~ William Duff commits suicide in the castle.

1724 ~ The castle is recorded as unroofed and derelict, although troops again use it as a base during this Jacobite rebellions.

1746 ~ A Hanoverian force, under the Duke of Cumberland, briefly holds the castle in the aftermath of the decisive Battle of Culloden.